Don't Know Much

Who Said It? (9/18/2017)


The colored men's rights are less than those of a jackass.

Answer: Frederick Douglass, “Speech to the National Free Soil Convention” (August 11, 1852)

Frederick Douglass circa 1847, age approximately 29 years. Source National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.


Both National Conventions acted in open contempt of the antislavery sentiment of the North, by incorporating, as the corner stone of their two platforms, the infamous law to which I have alluded—a law which, I think, will never be repealed—it is too bad to be repealed—a law fit only to trampled under foot, (suiting the action to the word). The only way to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter is to make half a dozen or more dead kidnappers. [Laughter and applause.] A half dozen more dead kidnappers carried down South would cool the ardor of Southern gentlemen, and keep their rapacity in check. That is perfectly right as long as the colored man has no protection. The colored men’s rights are less than those of a jackass. No man can take away a jackass without submitting the matter to twelve men in any part of this country. A black man may be carried away without any reference to a jury. It is only necessary to claim him, and that some villain should swear to his identity. There is more protection there for a horse, for a donkey, or anything, rather than a colored man—who is, therefore, justified in the eye of God, in maintaining his right with his arm.

Frederick Douglass: Speech to the National Free Soil Convention August 11, 1852

Source: Frederick Douglass Writing Projects, University of Rochester Libraries

Douglass was talking about the Fugitive Slave Act, enacted on September 18, 1850 as part of the Compromise of 1850. Passage of this law further emboldened abolitionists such as Douglass as well as inspiring Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 

Harriet’s Writing Room Source: Bowdoin College

Posted on September 18, 2017

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